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Holocaust writing assignment prompts emergency school board meeting

Rialto school board members to hold emergency meeting in wake of controversial Holocaust writing assignment
Rialto schools spokeswoman declines to say whether teachers involved face discipline, citing confidentiality

Rialto school board members will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday in response to widespread criticism of an eighth-grade writing assignment that asked students to consider sources that contend the Holocaust never happened.

A group of teachers and the district’s educational services division created the assignment, in which students were asked to research and write an argumentative essay about whether the Holocaust actually occurred or whether it was "merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth."

School officials say the assignment has since been pulled and will be revised, but the district has experienced withering criticism from groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which called it "grotesque."

In the aftermath of the blowback, a spokeswoman for the Rialto Unified School District told The Times that interim Supt. Mohammad Z. Islam was not aware of its topic until school officials received an email about it.

Syeda Jafri said he was “deeply disturbed” by the assignment and acted swiftly, but declined to comment on whether the teachers involved faced any disciplinary action, citing confidential personnel matters.

While joining in the criticism, the Anti-Defamation League also said it had no evidence that the writing assignment was part of a "larger, insidious agenda," and was instead treating it as a "misguided" attempt to meet critical thinking standards.

“This is a bad mark on our record and we will fix it and move forward,” Jafri said.

The special board meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Dr. John R. Kazalunas Education Center, 182 E. Walnut Ave., Rialto.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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